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Barnicoat plays big in volleyball

Early in the 1996 collegiate women's volleyball season, University ofSouthern Mississippi fans questioned the newest and most promising freshmanrecruit on the team.

Why would head coach Steve Dahlman go all the way to Oregon to recruita North Medford High player he would come to know as Tosha The TerminatorBarnicoat?

After all, he probably had plenty of talented players he could recruitfrom the south to play for the Lady Eagles at the highest level (NCAA Division1-A) of collegiate volleyball.

Dahlman knew some things about Barnicoat that even major college coachesin Oregon didn't seem to recognize. He had seen the 6-foot, high-leapingBarnicoat play with force and great emotion in high school. He liked whathe saw.

Why Oregon and Oregon State coaches didn't see these traits remains amystery. Neither program actively recruited Barnicoat. They appear to havemade a big mistake.

Snubbed in her home state, Barnicoat went south. She went to the DeepSouth to Hattiesburg, Miss., home of the University of Southern Mississippi,to play.

Barnicoat, 19, a fierce competitor and her own worst critic on the courtas an all-state player for North in 1995, showed those same traits immediatelyfor Southern Mississippi. She quickly established herself as the most consistentplayer on the team as a freshman.

It wasn't too long before Barnicoat was making all-tournament teams.She made three in a row (Illinois, Northern Arizona and Southern Mississippitournaments) prior to the start of the Conference USA season.

Southern Mississippi volleyball fans finally understood why Dahlman recruitedTosha The Terminator.

Because of her success, she became one of the most popular players onthe team. She had a flair for the spectacular. It sold tickets.

Barnicoat spent most of her time at the net, pounding down kill afterkill into tough Conference USA defenses. This was the big time. And Barnicoatkept delivering.

season's end, she led the Lady Eagles in kills (313), service aces(34), blocks (65) and she was second in digs (301). Since she is an outsidehitter and offensive specialist, her block and dig totals are unusual. Butimpressive.

Barnicoat led the Lady Eagles in double-doubles (double-figure gamesin kills and digs) with 15 on the way to being named the most valuable playeron the team and freshman of the year in Conference USA.

Popularity followed her success. Barnicoat says she became so identifiableon campus, she would have to leave her dormitory room 45 minutes early toget to class on time.

I don't know why, but people there took to me, she says.I was flattered. People would always stop me and want to talk.

Against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Barnicoat slammed 25 killsand had 19 digs. Her other monster game was a 24-kill, 20-dig performanceagainst rival Mississippi State.

I was going against some very big girls, but I just kept scoring,she says. I was hot for a while there.

I'm looking at some of these girls I'm playing against in awe.Are we male or female? I asked myself that a few times as I looked at them.They were just huge.

Barnicoat, a pre-medicine major who made the dean's list at SouthernMississippi with a grade-point average of just over 3.5 in her first twosemesters, is preparing for her second season with the Lady Eagles whilevisiting friends and her mother, Jolynn, in Medford this summer.

She is working out and playing volleyball almost daily to prepare forher sophomore season.

When she returns to Southern Mississippi, she will have a new head coach.Steve Sykes, an assistant coach under Dahlman for the Lady Eagles last season,has taken over.

He has a lot of patience and I believe he knows the game,says Barnicoat. But he has never been a head coach.

Barnicoat, who says she grew an inch to 6 feet during her first yearat USM, was asked by Southern Mississippi women's basketball coaches toplay for the Eagles last summer. She was a 1995-96 Southern Oregon Conferenceall-star for North Medford girls basketball coach Mike Kay.

But Barnicoat told the coaches she's playing only volleyball in college.And for the right reasons.

I play volleyball because I love the sport, she says. Theother reason I play is to help me get the education that I want.

As a doctor one day, Barnicoat says she hopes to specialize in nutritionaldisorders.

As a player, Barnicoat says she needs to improve all facets of her game.

The main thing I need to do is play with more patience and tryto control my emotions, she says. I tend to get upset when thingsaren't going right.

My coaches have talked to me about playing with more of a pokerface and not letting the other team know when I'm upset. When they see youupset at this level, the ball starts coming your way. They start hittingevery serve at you until you prove you are under control.